Five Ways to Keep Stress at Work from Ruining Your Health

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, work is a source of stress for most people.

Long hours. High expectations with little support. Tight deadlines. The pressure to succeed.

If we aren’t careful, these things can overwhelm us and have serious physical and emotion tolls.

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Loss of Motivation
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Trouble Concentrating
  • Muscle Tension and Headaches

Work should be a source of joy in our lives, not stress.

All of us can’t change our workplace or jobs, but we can take control of some aspects to create a healthier work environment. Here are a few tips on ways to keep stress levels down.

1. Prioritize and organize

Most of us could be more efficient at work. We tend to let the urgent tasks take control of our schedule instead of focusing on the truly important tasks. In addition, our lack of organization allows critical items to fall through the cracks. These mistakes lead to more stress as bosses and clients get frustrated with you.

So, identify the best way to organize your tasks and work. This could be a paper planner, a digital tool like Trello or Asana, or a whiteboard. Whatever works for you, create a plan and stick to it.

Then, take the time to prioritize before you begin your day. List out your tasks and mark them as Urgent and/or Important.

  • Those that are both Urgent and Important need to be dealt with first
  • Tasks that are urgent, but not as important may need to be delegated.
  • Anything that isn’t urgent should move to the bottom of the list.

2. Break bad habits

There are plenty of external contributors to our stress at work. But there are others caused explicitly by us, including negative thoughts and behavior. These self-defeating habits can create stress and make it harder to manage.

Eliminate perfectionism – We all want to do our best at work. But with a limited amount of time and resources, sometimes “done is better than perfect.” If you struggle with perfectionism, get a project to 90% and then decide if it’s good enough to ship or if you need to hand it off to someone else to take it the rest of the way.

Stop worrying about things you can’t control – The behavior of others, unrealistic expectations, the future. Rather than stressing over these things, focus on what you can control. That includes your reactions to events and immediate work.

3. Be proactive about responsibilities

If you feel certain expectations aren’t reasonable, then voice that concern. But do so in a way that seeks to solve, not just complain. Identify tasks that could be handled by someone else or find tools and resources that would make you more efficient.

As colleagues leave, job responsibilities can shift from one person to another. This can result in people doing tasks that are well outside of their job description. At the appropriate time, work with your boss to clarify your responsibilities and look for ways your talents could be better used

4. Find the “why” in your work

We are far more effective when we find meaning in our work. Our companies create mission and vision statements designed to provide this for its employees. It doesn’t always translate to the mundane, day-to-day tasks. Seek to connect the what you do to the success of the company and more importantly, its customers.

Even if it’s a seemingly unrelated task, look for the “why.” For example, if you are in billing, the job of creating invoices and chasing down payments may seem unimportant. But this task is vital to ensuring the company is paid for the valuable work it does. Without your efforts, there won’t be enough money to pay the salaries of your fellow employees. And your company won’t be able to help its clients experience greater success.

5. Focus on your health

We identified how stress can cause physical problems. But sometimes, it works the other way around. People who are healthier are more resilient to the negative effects of stress. This means taking care of yourself is a critical part of reducing stress in the workplace.

Here are a few quick tips for focusing on your health at work.

Eat Healthier – Because we have limited time for lunch at work, we tend to make poor choices. Making a few small changes can make a big difference.

  • Opt for healthier options instead of hitting a local fast food drive-through.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand in the office to reduce hunger cravings.
  • Eat fewer sugary snacks and refined carbs.
  • Drink fewer caffeinated beverages that tend to affect your mood.

Get Active – Staying active is a great way to improve your mood, stay focused, and burn a few extra calories during the day. You should be aiming for 30-minutes of light activity each day. Here are a few ways to fit it into your busy work schedule.

  • Walk during lunch instead of sitting the entire time.
  • If the meeting doesn’t require a computer or documents, turn it into a walking meeting.
  • Take a break and walk around in-between major tasks.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Try out a FitDesk product and squeeze in activity without leaving your desk!

We can’t always control our schedule or our job, but hopefully following a few of these suggestions helps you avoid the stress that comes with it.

Download our free guide, 5 Days to a Healthier Work Week for more tips on creating healthier habits in the workplace.